Court Closure Day: On the 16th Day of December the AOC Gave to Me

Closed courthouses

A public left knocking on closed courthouse doors

Increased caseload for all who work in court arena

Furloughs for court staff

A lack of transparency with AOC’s budget

Pinkslips for some court staff

Slashed trial court budgets

Hiring Freezes for all except the AOC

Raises for AOC staff members

An AOC staff that has increased 60% since 2003

A $2 billion computer software

A demoralized AOC staff

A rumored AOC witch hunt

A demoralized court staff throughout the state for that matter

Questionable hiring practices leading to AOC employees with questionable character

Accounting errors using AOC software and procedures

AOC whisteblowers shown their walking papers

No protection for AOC whistleblowers

Contracts assigned to unlicensed contractors

Expensive soirées at fancy shmancy high falutin places

A propaganda machine working overtime to save the AOC

AOC paid persons writing “unbiased” pro-AOC columns

And a chief justice who thinks critics are shrill and uninformed

I could have gone on AOCW readers but I didn’t want to completely bum you out during this holiday season.  But if you’ve got more to add, feel free to do so in the comments section.

20 responses to “Court Closure Day: On the 16th Day of December the AOC Gave to Me

  1. This week has been one of many surprises and perhaps with the CJA finally awakening from it’s long slumber something may finally be happening.

    I would just like to pass on two developments that might have passed the notice of AOC workers who were too busy trying to hold onto their jobs:

    >The e-mails flying fast and furious from Directors/Assistant Directors trying to find out who was invited to Bill’s soiree at the University Club Monday night.

    Seems some long time Directors had their invites “lost in the mail.”

    >The Judicial Council awarding Finance Director Stephen Nash an award for superior performance (this from a division that has not recognized a “line” employee in over two years).

    I wonder if the awards committee took into account the dismal financial performance of the AOC or perhaps it was awarded in spite of it.

    I started watching Alice on Syfy the other night but then stopped because I realized that I worked in Wonderland.

  2. Dear Santa,

    Here is my Christmas wish list for the California Courts. I’ve been a very good girl, and so have most of my co-workers in the courts. So could you please deliver on these asap?

    1. Chief Justice Ronald George retires from the bench, books another lavish African Safari with his so-cal friends, the $hapiros, itinerary to include all portions of the continent where the natives are most shrill.

    2. Justice Richard D. Huffman resigns from the Judicial Council, is apprenticed to governance guru, John Carver, for a month of Sundays. Duties to include Powerpoint preparation, PR, coffee fetching and box lunch prep for seminar attendees.

    3. William C. Vickrey resigns from the AOC, rides the fastest one-way rail back to the Utah State Prison system, maximum security this time.

    4. Ronald G. Overholt resigns from the AOC, returns to the Oakland Hills to remodel his home (again), sixties kitsch this time: zig-zaggy wallpaper, Formica countertops, linoleum floors, lava lamps.

    5. Justice Brad R. Hill resigns from the council, books an extended stay at the San Francisco Hilton, Presidential Suite, gets his roots done, pays the tab himself this time.

    6. Sheila Calabro resigns from the AOC, signs a contract with Disney to play the lead in a remake of One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

    7. All of the above receive bundles of switches beneath their Christmas tree or Hanukkah Bush.

    8. California Legislature enacts a Trial Court Bill of Rights.

    9. The Legislature establishes a separate trial court advisory group, consisting of active trial judges elected by judges from the 58 county trial courts, to advise the Judicial Council, oversee the AOC, and report upon the judicial budget and judicial affairs to the public, the governor, and the Judicial Council itself.

    10. A democratized Judicial Council composed of members with a sound sense of priorities, members who recognize that access to the courts is more important than half-baked computer systems, and shiny new court houses. And for God’s sake, Santa, could you give us more people of color on the council? And more women! I mean, don’t you think it’s about time a few of us savvy dames had a turn?

    Wishing you a very merry and happy holiday season. Yours truly,

  3. How about “strange happenings?”

    Example #1: Although the AOC has a Governmental Affairs section stationed in Sacramento they have engaged former Senator Dunn and former Assemblywoman Escutia to help with the AOC’s relations with the Legislature. I am told that Assemblywoman Escutia missed all 25 meetings of the Judicial Council while she was a member of it.

    Example#2; Although his entire compensation is paid by someone other than the AOC Mr. Kelso is on the AOC payroll as, apparently, an accomodation to a Federal Judge who is overseeing the California Prisons.

    What other “strange happenings” are out there?

  4. Many of you know that RO once worked in Alameda County. I recently met a former deputy sheriff who reminded me that RO coordinated a similar computer mess and caused havoc for numerous enforcement agencies when Corpus was first implemented many moons ago in Alameda County.

    Comments made to me by that ex-deputy sheriff “Looks like RO’s reputation follows him around. But, at least he is consistent in his blunders.”

    Santa better make sure he does not meet the AOC run-run crew(the two Rons, Bill, Ernie and the other over crusted ones) before reviewing any wish lists. Santa might end up on the take as well.

  5. Themis: I just about fell on the floor laughing with your wish list! You made my day! I would only add two other wishes:

    1. that J Huffman and any remaining directors must make binders and name tents for the attendees up until midnight the night before the conference.

    2. that the dedicated staff of the AOC find happiness in truly meaningful work, working for the benefit of the branch and all Californians, under democratically elected oversight, and where their dedication, opinions and experience are valued.

  6. Themis, Your list is an instant classic, but you forgot something. How about whistle blower protection for AOC employees. That would look good under the tree too, don’t you think?

  7. I can confirm that there are several wise men and women who are not afraid to speak out and have seen quite clearly what has been going on at the AOC. Knowledge, like truth, is very powerful. And justice will prevail, even at the AOC. It may not be pretty, but it will at least be real.

    • Obi-Wan Kenobi

      Hopefully those same people you speak of understand that the AOC is a racketeering influenced corrupt organization.

  8. Dear Santa,

    This year I would like to ask for something not for myself but for the line staff employees of the AOC and the public they serve with dedication.

    Please send the State Bureau of Audits to do a top to bottom audit of the AOC.

    Please take all necessary measures to restore integrity, honesty, ethical conduct, accountability, and actual transparency to the Executive, Director and Management ranks of the AOC, including the Office of the Chief Justice.

    And please give the line staff employees of the AOC protection under an Excluded Employee Bill of Rights as well as Whistleblower Protection.

    And please leave a whistle in the stocking of every line staff employee of the AOC.

  9. Rest assured that great numbers of people are watching all of these issues closely. Many cannot comment publicly on the specifics of certain matters, however. Judges, for example, are forbidden from making public comment about pending litigation, or even impending litigation, if the comment might influence the outcome, or seem designed to do so, or could be seen as advocacy for one side, or advice to one side. The reasons for rules such as these are obvious and many, and judges must, and do, take them seriously. Further, judges are precluded from substantive conversations with represented individuals or litigants about matters for which counsel has been retained. That’s why they have counsel–to advice and protect them. There are apparently, according to press reports and reports here, at least two lawsuits, and possibly more already filed, and more likely to come. Judges must not speak on matters related thereto, no matter how tempting. We can, and are, speaking about general concerns, however, such as whistleblower protection. As you all know, it is one leg of a three-pronged legislative approach favored by the ACJ.

    Do not mistake lack of public comment on certain matter for disinterest. As I said, be assured that there is great interest about a great many of the topics addressed on this blog.

    Chuck Horan

    • Judge Horan,

      In a time of darkness, you give us hope.

      And isn’t that what the true reason of this season is all about?

      Follow the star.

  10. Wendy Darling. First, that is a great name, and is the type of thing that pleasantly takes us back to our youth in an instant. I note, as well that many of the names up here are incredibly clever, as are many of the allusions. I assume many of you to be AOC employees, past or former, and I must say that based upon my reading hereabouts, there are a great number of clever and talented people in that organization.

    These may be dark times in some sense, but in others, quite the opposite. I am quite optimistic! Have a bit of faith, like your namesake, and stay tuned, buddy!

    Chuck Horan

  11. I just noticed that someone posted this on “legalpad” back in September. Interesting to anyone? Not sure if this is good or bad legal advice, but at least someone else was thinking when all this started.

    “Free speech is one thing. However an all out assault on any person with the intent to harass and annoy by utilizing a psudonym to hide behind is cougruent to federal law.

    Specifically, 18USC223 which says and I quote:

    “Whoever…utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet… without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person…who receives the communications…shall be fined under title 18 (uh, that would be 50K per post) or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

    Judge Tim Fall and Judge Chuck Horan posted there as a judges under their real names. For this, they win the award for free speech.

    The rest who post under alias with the intent to harass and annoy are likely court employees (specifically, union reps) who will later claim they were unknowingly violating federal law utilizing judicial branch resources under the guise of “union business”.

    The AOC is quite transparent. Unless of course, like these individuals, you’ve stuck your head in the sand for years.

    Posted by: JudicialReform | September 10, 2009 at 01:01 PM

    Make that 47USC223.”

    • 47 USC 223 does not, in my opinion, make risky any of the comments on AOC Watcher.

      It is important to read the section all the way through.

  12. Honorable Judge Horan,

    Your recent posts in this blog go a long, long way to give a much needed boost in discouraging times. More than you will ever know, as staying optimistic can sometimes be a challenge. You are SO RIGHT, we must have faith (and a little pixie dust couldn’t hurt, either?)

    Thank you ever so much for letting us know that there are eyes of interest watching.

    • It wouldn’t even be a surprise if at the next Council meeting a resolution is proposed to exuse the AOC “leadership” from any accountability for failing to make sure the contractors they hired actually had valid licenses, even though it was their legal duty to do so.

      And Mermaid, about that pixie dust, I’ll talk to Tink and see what we can do.

  13. There are a number of steps judges have taken – governed by the California Code of Judicial ethics as Judge Horan notes above – which are bringing these issues to the fore.

    One recent major step, of course, is the CJA position on AOC oversight. That topic has been brought up by various Executive Board members at meetings and in emails for months. Those discussions have now borne fruit in the comments CJA’s President made at the Judicial Council meeting Tuesday and in the CJA press release that same day.

    We have also seen judges from San Diego to Sacramento and courts in between writing letters to the editors and guest editorials for major newspapers which bring to light the concerns judges have about the present state of Judicial Branch administration. In addition, many judges have been interviewed by some very good reporters who have then quoted those judges by name.

    The initial organizing meeting of the Alliance of California Judges in September had a number of judges from up and down the state in attendance (even little old Yolo County was represented). The well-reasoned discussion focused on how to improve the administration of justice in California. The Alliance’s progress on the issues is seen in the statements it has released since then.

    There are also innumerable emails and telephone calls among judges who share information, bounce ideas around, and provide much needed encouragement to one another. Judging, by nature, is a solitary occupation, but these judges are working hard to coordinate efforts to improve the Judicial Branch.

    One more thing: Every judge I have heard give an opinion about the AOC has nothing but praise for the hard work of AOC staff. I myself have worked on many projects, classes, and meetings with AOC staff and I am consistently pleased with the opportunity to do so. Those hardworking members of the AOC staff are not the problem; they are part of the solution.

    Our goal is to improve the administration of justice, and I look forward to working with everyone who can contribute to achieving that goal.

    • Honorable Judge Timothy Fall,

      In these trying times, saying thank you doesn’t seem to be enough. The encouragement the CJA is giving to so many people in restoring our faith in the system is immeasurable.

  14. Per John Henry’s post, More Information (see excerpted text below the URL) on Federal Law 47USC223 from the NowPublic Website,

    “… The First Amendment protects our right to write something that annoys someone else. It even shields our right to do it anonymously. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended this principle magnificently in a 1995 case involving an Ohio woman who was punished for distributing anonymous political pamphlets.

    If President Bush truly believed in the principle of limited government (it is in his official bio), he’d realize that the law (47USC223) he signed cannot be squared with the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

  15. As an AOC employee who works with court staff at all levels, I, too, can attest that (in spite of the Ron’s, Bill, et al who control the AOC) there are extremely gifted employees working for the AOC and the courts.

    I propose that when those gifted (court and AOC ) individuals join forces, whether openly or anonymously, to ensure the Ron’s, Bill and et al are no longer in charge of the AOC, more gifted folks will be attracted to work for the courts and the AOC.

    Happy Holidays to all!